(Dallas, Texas) — Yesterday, the horrific attack in London underscored yet again the threat radical Islamic terrorism poses to our allies. We mourn for those murdered, killed and traumatized, and we pray for the Lord to comfort and heal.
The attack on our British ally was also a stark reminder that such terror could strike inside the U.S. homeland without warning if our leaders do not aggressively improve defensive measures to protect the American people, and launch far more aggressive offensive measures to decisively defeat the Islamic State and other militant Islamist groups.
In this context, I was encouraged that yesterday the Trump-Pence administration was actually hosting a conference of foreign ministers from 68 countries
, focused on how to improve cooperation not simply to fight ISIS but to win.
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered an excellent address (read or watch here).
- The State Department released a helpful fact sheet detailing the progress that has been made against ISIS so far.
- The coalition released a statement on areas of agreement and focus for 2017.
Now it is time for President Trump to deliver a major address to the American people on how he views the war against the Islamic State and his vision for victory.
Mr. Trump, to his credit, is the first president in American history to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” which he referred to in his Inaugural Address and his Joint Address to Congress. Neither Presidents George W. Bush nor Barack Obama chose to use this term.
Mr. Trump is absolutely right to shine a spotlight on the homicidal ideology that drives jihadists to wage war against us and our allies. But he must be careful not to assume that everyone understands what he means. The phrase, after all, is simply shorthand.
Now that he has captured people’s attention by using the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” it is vitally important that he define it. As leader of the free world, he has an extraordinary platform to educate a national and global audience about the true nature and magnitude of the threat in more detail and with more precision. He should seize it.
He should explain to the nation that last year alone, 37 people were arrested in the U.S. for ISIS-related terrorist plots — that’s three a month. He should explain that ISIS has recruited jihadists from 120 nations, and have killed more than 1,200 people outside of Iraq and Syria. He should explain that as we take territory away from ISIS in the Mideast, thousands of trained and experienced foreign fighters are redeploying all over the world, to launch new and devastating attacks.
The President should explain the objectives of the global jihadist movement, and why they particularly seek to attack the American people. No American President has ever walked the public through this savage worldview. He should.
At the same time, the President needs to be clear that we are not at war with the religion of Islam, and that he is not talking about the vast majority of Muslims who, in fact, do not pose a threat at all.
A careful analysis of extensive polling in the Muslim world since 9/11
by multiple research groups shows that upwards of 90 percent of Muslims worldwide are not radicals. However, it also reveals that between 7 and 10 percent of Muslims worldwide do support the violence of the Islamic State, suicide bombings against innocent civilians, and other acts of violence to accomplish their religious and political objectives. The good news is that the vast majority of Muslims are not a threat. But in a world of 1.6 billion Muslims, 10 percent represents upwards of 160 million people who support terrorism.
Fortunately, according to a new poll we recently commissioned
, we found that the American people overwhelmingly rejects the idea that in the conflict with ISIS we are at war with the religion of Islam. Only 10 percent believe that. What’s more, only about one-in-three Americans (36 percent) think our leaders should say we are at war with the forces of “violent extremism.”
A plurality (45 percent) support the President in saying we are waging war against the forces of “radical Islam,” but add that they want our leaders to be careful to explain that most Muslims are not our enemy. The President could do just that in a major address.
The release of these survey results comes as the White House is rightly reaching out to our Mideast allies. President Trump recently met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and with the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince to discuss the war against ISIS. This week, he also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, after which he pledged to speed up U.S. support to Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State. Now, Mr. Trump has invited Egyptian President el-Sisi to make his first-ever visit to Washington in early April.
The President is wise to embrace both our Sunni and Shia Muslim allies and work closely with them. But he should not only seek their counsel on developing a better war strategy. He should also get their input on how to craft a much better strategic communications plan to define the nature of our enemy and explain to the public why the stakes are so high. Then he should address the American people.
At the moment, our survey found that Americans believe we are losing the war against ISIS, and nearly 70 percent fear catastrophic terrorist attacks by ISIS are coming to the homeland.
The President is showing impressive leadership in the fight against ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism. Now it’s time to brief the American people on what this all means, and where we are going next.